I’m a self-proclaimed introvert. It may be that it makes me statistically more unique or that Gandhi was one, but for some reason being an introvert intrigues me. Introverts get to sit in their room listening to Bon Iver and contemplating life for hours at a time without judgment. They’re not shy, their not anti-social—they just like to be alone.
I came into college convinced of my introversion. I dreaded having a roommate (s/o to G. Holly Hendee), feared sharing a bathroom, and was terrified that I would never find time to be alone.
Last month, when sick in bed with some kind of un-diagnosable college disease, I watch the film interpretation of John Krakuer’s Into The Wild. The story is about a college grad who escapes reality in the Alsakan wilderness searching for ‘something greater’. In the months before his trek into the wild, he changes the lives of people along his journey. He is so preoccupied with the idea of escape, of being alone, of being happy—he is blind to the happiness he has created around him. In his wake he leaves trails of joy and loss as the people that love him watch his back disappear on the horizon. Yet in his mind there is one thought—Alaska.
Over a year after his escape, he finds himself alone in the Alaskan wilderness. He’s finally where he dreamed of being. His beard grows full and his stomach grows empty and the happiness he sought eludes him.
Time passes and days pile up. His life remains ‘Alaska’ as the lives of those who love him continue on. He attempts to leave, but is stopped by the same wilderness that was his Ithaca, his final destination. Alone, sick, tired, and empty he realizes that happiness is not Alaska, but the people who watch him go there.
Happiness is only real when shared.
College has questioned my introversion. I love Bon Iver and I love contemplating life, but I also love being around other people. I’ve learned that joy seems magnified when shared with someone else. I’m not taking away the beauty of being alone, but I no longer find it as complete.
Last week, a friend and I stayed up for hours talking about what makes us who we are. Though we’ve known each other for a while, I felt like it was the first time we’d met. We concluded that both of us aren’t really ‘people people’ but ‘human people’. Meaning that normal conversation confuses us, awkwardness is expected, and flirting is one of those things that never made sense. But we want to know you. We will un- abashingly ask you the questions the give us a key to your soul and will ask you to do the same. We love being alone, but find our greatest joy when sharing it with other people.
I love being alone. I am happy being alone. But as my life becomes intertwined with the stories of the people around me, as I share their hopes and dreams and fears—I can’t help but feel that happiness is only real when shared.
Unanswerable Question: Can one be truly happy when completely alone?